During the colder months in Japan a lot of places put on spectacular night time illuminations. The illuminations usually start late autumn and last until early February. Most are FREE and definitely worth checking out as they are a highlight of winter in Japan.
Some of the most popular and spectacular are:
Kobe Luminaire in Kobe, a light festival, this is the original and most famous. The illuminations run for two weeks in December and are turned on for a few hours each evening. They are truly spectacular with each light individually hand painted. Kobe Luminaire is dedicated to the memory and recovery of the Kobe Earthquake in 1995.
Nabana no Sato located in Kuwana City in Mie Prefecture, is a theme park dedicated to flowers. They have one of Japan’s finest winter illuminations that runs for about 4 months from mid-November to mid-March. The highlight is the spectacular light tunnel. Nabana no Sato
Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho zukkuri farmhouses. This place has been famous for years due to its thatched roof farmhouses, but the beauty is raised to an even higher level when the houses are lit up in the snow. Spotlights illuminate the snow covered thatched roofs and runs from mid-January to mid-February.
Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, this annual snow festival also called the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri is a winter favourite. It is held each year in early February with dozens of large and amazingly elaborate ice and snow sculptures. The event will be held from February 5-11 in 2013 and the amazing ice sculptures are lit at night creating a winter fairyland.
Tokyo has quite a few seasonal illuminations spots including:
• Shinjuku Southern Terrace, south of JR Shinjuku Station
• Ginza, Christmas trees along Chuo Street and store illuminations
• Odaiba, has the “Daiba Memorial Tree” in Odaiba Kaihin Park
• Tokyo Dome City, has an impressive collection of illuminations
• Maranouchi, the Nakadori Street is lit up with illuminations
Most places in Japan will have some kind of winter illuminations, so wherever you are in Japan, you will be able to enjoy this winter tradition.
Photo: Mark McLaughlin